Saturday, January 29, 2011

Who are we? What are we becoming? - Part 2

In Part 1 we saw that, as A. W. Tozer expresses it: "We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God." We are becoming like our idea of God.

What difference does it make if we see God as the Trinity or if we have a unitarian view of God? Will this have an effect on who we are and what we are becoming?

A Prevalent Type of Unitarianism

To a large extent, in her actual thoughts about God, the church in the United States and Canada has given up the Trinity. She stopped recognizing the distinction between the Persons in God. She began to see Them as only one person operating in different modes. This is nothing new. It is the old heresy called Modalism. It was brought in from Pagan sources, not from Jesus or the apostles.

What is Modalism? Here's an illustration. My name is Tom. I am only one person, but I do different things. I am a farmer, a computer programmer, and a lawyer. One day you might see me in a suit in an office. That day I appear as Tom the lawyer. Another day you might see me in a work shirt, boots, and work pants making repairs to a farm implement. That day I appear as Tom the farmer. Another day you might see me in shorts with an island shirt in front of my computer writing software. That day I appear as Tom the computer programmer.

The fact that I change work clothes and do different works does not give me someone to love or someone to love me. In Modalism, "the bed is too short to stretch oneself on, and the covering too narrow to wrap oneself in." There is no comfort, no rest.

But God is not like that illustration. God is not one person whom we see at different times operating in different modes. When we say God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we should not mean a single person who one day is doing his Father work, the next his Son work, and the next his Spirit work. The Trinity is not a change of work clothes, works, or modes. It is as difference of persons, yet one God.

If God Loves Self, We Love Self

In Is Love a Lie?, we saw that without the Trinity, love is abolished or becomes hellish self-love. God would not love with the love of one person for another. The only love possible in a one-person god is the love of that person for himself.

When the church fell away from the Trinity, unconsciously we began to see God as a God of self-love, one person loving himself. Then we began to move toward that mental image of God. We mimicked the world's doctrine of self-love, self-esteem, and self-image. We actually teach it as if it were the gospel. Somehow the apostles missed it. The Holy Spirit forgot to give them that inspiration.

In answer to the questions, who are we and what are we becoming, with the reduced view of the Trinity, with the modal view of God, we are becoming lovers of self, as we think God is.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self . . . having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
Christ, the Other-Esteemer

The Bible is full of teaching against the doctrine of self-esteem. Here is one passage that teaches other-esteem by the example of Christ.
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:1-8)
If Jesus were a preacher of self-esteem, he would not have gone to the cross. In his other-esteem, Jesus held to his promises to the Father and the Spirit by laying down his life for sinners.

Losses of Self-Esteem

Based on that passage in Philippians, here are some things we lose through self-esteem:
  • consolation in Christ
  • comfort of love
  • fellowship of the Spirit
  • affection and mercy
The price of self-esteem is too high. It's a poor investment.

Self-love is the root of manifold ills in society and in an individual's life. The church could be exempt from many woes of society by loving the love of others, by esteeming others better than self. Because we have gone the way of the world in our thoughts about God, we are going the way of the world in our lives. Consider just one important example: divorce is as rampant in the church as it is in the world. Would Christ divorce his bride, the Church? Was it so easy for Him to hold to his wife?

The world preaches. It heralds individualism, self-realization, finding your identity, becoming who you are, an ism of the human, a doctrine of man, being true to yourself, being an authentic person, finding meaning in choice. Yet, without life in the image of the Trinity, man as man is abolished. Kallistos Ware expresses it this way:
Why, then, believe in God as Trinity? ... First, a "person" is not at all the same as an "individual." Isolated, self-dependent, none of us is an authentic person, but merely an individual, a bare unit as recorded in the census. Egocentricity is the death of true personhood. Each becomes a real person only through entering into relation with other persons, through living for them and in them. There can be no man, so it has been rightly said, until there are at least two men in communication. (The Orthodox Way, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1995, p. 28)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Tom....

    I was reminded of Don Matzat's book when reading your entry. "Christ Esteem"

    There is a free copy at:

    ttyl and love the blog!